The Buckeyes have not merely advanced to the first College Football Playoff title game with a third-string quarterback.
They actually think they can win it with a third-string quarterback.
The oddsmakers are even becoming believers as Oregon's pregame point-spread lead has narrowed to five points.
Cardale Jones, who started the season in cold storage, is 60 football minutes from becoming a story on "60 Minutes."
"It's unreal, like a movie or a book," Jones said Saturday, two days before he takes the giant field at Arlington's AT&T Stadium. "I can't pinch myself any harder."
The story of Cardale Jones, as far as anyone knows, has no precedent.
At least seven backup
Late in the 1965 season, after injuries to Johnny Unitas and Gary Cuozzo,
Once, in a Barry Switzer fairy tale, freshman Jamelle Holieway led
Way back in the spring of 1998, Florida State quarterback Marcus Outzen was third string behind Chris Weinke and Dan Kendra.
Outzen moved up one peg when Kendra blew out his knee in the spring. Outzen ended up starting the first
Outzen was a plug stopper compared with Jones, who has been a difference maker.
And it gets even stranger than that. Ohio State would not be in
Ohio State's playoff hopes appeared doomed when J.T. Barrett broke his leg against
Barrett's injury, though, gave the first-year selection committee a good reason to keep Ohio State on the sidelines.
Only an outrageous effort by Jones, in the Big Ten title game against
Well, outrageous is what the committee got, as Jones led Ohio State to a 59-0 win in which he was named the game's most valuable player.
Jones followed that by directing Ohio State to a
In two career starts, in two of the biggest games in Ohio State history, Jones has completed 30 of 52 passes for 500 yards and four touchdowns.
Six months ago, Buckeyes Coach
What Meyer actually said was "I would have looked at you like you've got six heads."
Jones has grown up. He is a much different third-string quarterback than he was in 2012, when he sat behind Miller and Kenny Guiton.
Jones drew attention for all the wrong reasons.
"I got pretty known on campus for that stupid tweet," he said.
That stupid October-surprise tweet: "Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain't come to play SCHOOL...classes are POINTLESS."
Jones had a better chance of getting kicked out of school than moving up the depth chart. Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman often debated why they needed a knucklehead who might never play.
Jones, the youngest of six children raised in Cleveland, was a serial goof-off. Former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, who recruited Jones, even shipped him to military prep school for a year — it didn't work.
It's hard to believe now that Buckeye Nation is counting on Jones to deliver the team's first national title since 2002.
It's harder to believe that he just might do it.
Nothing about Jones' countenance at Saturday's media day suggested he wasn't up for the challenge.
He fielded an hour's worth of questions with the silkiness of a polished professional.
Jones, at one point, got up from his podium seat and fired a football to appease a filming television crew.
Asked about playing in two pressure-filled games already, Jones said, "I don't think I've been rattled."
At 6 feet 5, 250 pounds, Jones could fill up a phone booth.
Looking at him makes you think he could start for 100 other major-college programs.
He has the best throwing arm of all the Ohio State quarterbacks and likes to show it off.
"He's kneeled at the 50 [yard line] and thrown it through the uprights," Ohio State tailback Ezekiel Elliott said. "That's 60 yards right there."
Jones doesn't bring liabilities to the game, he brings assets. His arm strength, combined with Ohio State's speed at receiver, will stretch Oregon's secondary like a rubber band.
"He's big, unbelievably fast for his size, very physical runner," Oregon Coach Mark Helfrich said of Jones. "And then he can put the ball on the money."
The only thing working against Jones is the notion he really shouldn't be doing this.
He admittedly got more serious about the game after Miller was injured in the fall, which elevated Jones to No. 2 on the depth chart.
He started putting in more hours studying game film.
"The game really slows down when you understand the Xs and Os," he explained.
Jones said he prepared each week to be the starter, knowing it might not happen.
"You've got to have that mind-set that anything can happen," he said.
Jones has drawn praise from friend and foe.
"His ability to step up and lead his team says a lot about who he is," Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota said of Jones. "He has so much confidence as a player and it's incredible to watch."
Meyer has quite a knack for developing quarterbacks, going back to
No quarterback, though, has come as far, and as fast, as Jones.
"A guy that's very talented but just is immature and doesn't use it, it's kind of a waste of time," Meyer said. "But he's really grown up here, the last couple weeks."
The Buckeyes don't need Jones to be perfect against Oregon on Monday. They just need one more growth spurt.